Tragic Kingdom

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Tragic Kingdom
No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom.png
Studio album by No Doubt
Released October 10, 1995 (1995-10-10)
Recorded March 1994 – October 1995
Studio Various studios in the Greater Los Angeles Area
Length 59:38
Producer Matthew Wilder
No Doubt chronology
The Beacon Street Collection
Tragic Kingdom
Return of Saturn
Singles from Tragic Kingdom
  1. "Just a Girl"
    Released: September 21, 1995
  2. "Spiderwebs"
    Released: November 19, 1995
  3. "Don't Speak"
    Released: April 15, 1996
  4. "Excuse Me Mr."
    Released: August 21, 1996
  5. "Happy Now?"
    Released: January 20, 1997
  6. "Sunday Morning"
    Released: May 27, 1997
  7. "Hey You!"
    Released: February 23, 1998

Tragic Kingdom is the third studio album by American rock band No Doubt. It was released on October 10, 1995 by Trauma Records, a division of Interscope Records, less than 7 months after the release of their previous album The Beacon Street Collection. It is the final album to feature original keyboardist Eric Stefani, who left in 1994. The album was produced by Matthew Wilder and recorded in eleven studios in the Greater Los Angeles Area between March 1993 and October 1995. Between 1995 and 1998, seven singles were released from it, including "Just a Girl", which charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart; and "Don't Speak", which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay and peaked in the top five of many international charts.

The album received mostly positive reviews from music critics. At the 39th Annual Grammy Awards, No Doubt earned nominations for Best New Artist and Best Rock Album. It has sold over sixteen million copies worldwide; and was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the United States and Canada, platinum in the United Kingdom, and triple platinum in Australia. Tragic Kingdom helped to initiate the ska revival of the 1990s, persuading record labels to sign more ska bands and helping them to attract more mainstream attention. The album was ranked number 441 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[1]

No Doubt embarked on a tour to promote the album. It was designed by Project X and lasted two and a half years. An early 1997 performance at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim was filmed and released as Live in the Tragic Kingdom on VHS and later DVD.


No Doubt released their self-titled debut album in 1992, a year after being signed to Interscope. The album's pop-oriented sound sharply contrasted with grunge music, a genre which was very popular at the time in the United States.[2] The album sold 30,000 copies;[3][4] in the words of the program director of KROQ, a Los Angeles radio station on which it was one of the band's driving ambitions to be played, "it would take an act of God for this band to get on the radio."[4][5] The band began work on their second album in 1993,[4] but Interscope rejected most of the material, which was written by Gary Angle,[6] and paired the band with producer Matthew Wilder. Keyboardist Eric Stefani did not want to relinquish creative control to someone outside the band and eventually stopped recording and rehearsing.[7] He encouraged other members of the band to write songs, but sometimes felt threatened when they did. Eric became increasingly depressed, and in September 1994, he stopped attending rehearsals, though they were usually held at his house.[8] He soon left the band to pursue an animation career on the animated sitcom The Simpsons.[7] Bassist Tony Kanal then ended his seven-year relationship with Gwen Stefani.[9]

The band decided to produce their next album independently and recorded their second album, The Beacon Street Collection, in a homemade studio.[4] No Doubt's first two singles were released for The Beacon Street Collection: "Squeal" and "Doghouse", under their own record label, Beacon Street Records. Despite limited availability, the album sold 100,000 copies in the year of its release.[4] Their independence attracted Interscope's attention and ensured that the label would fund a third album.[6]


The title "Tragic Kingdom" is a play on words for Disneyland's nickname The Magic Kingdom.

Tragic Kingdom was recorded in eleven different studios in Los Angeles,[4] starting in March 1993 and finally being released two-and-a-half years later in October 1995.[4] During one of these recording sessions, the band was introduced to Paul Palmer, who had previously worked with Bush and was interested in working on No Doubt's new album. After mixing the first single with David J. Holman, "Just a Girl", Palmer and Holman went on to do the same to the rest of the record. He wanted to release the album on his own label, Trauma Records, which was already associated with Interscope, and succeeded in getting the contract.[10]

The album is named after the nickname Dumont's 7th grade teacher had for Disneyland, which is in Anaheim, California, where the band members grew up. It is a pun on the popular nickname for Disneyland—"The Magic Kingdom".[11] The album photography and portraits were taken by photographer fine artist Daniel Arsenault. Gwen is featured in the foreground while the rest of the band members are standing in an orange grove in the background. Gwen pushed for Eric to be included on the album cover—a source of tension for the band—reasoning that although he had left the band, he had still contributed substantially to the album. Eric is seen near the back of the picture, looking away from the camera.[8] The pictures on the cover and in the liner notes were taken on city streets in their native Orange County (namely Anaheim and City of Orange) and in orange groves. The red dress Gwen wears on the cover was loaned to the Hard Rock Cafe and was later displayed at the Fullerton Museum Center in an exhibit titled "The Orange Groove: Orange County's Rock n' Roll History".[12] The dress, appraised as high as US$5,000, was stolen from the exhibit in January 2005.[13]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Tragic Kingdom uses elements of a variety of musical genres. Third wave ska and ska punk (a fusion of ska and punk rock) are the genres most prominent on the album.[14][15][16] The album also uses elements of new wave, pop,[17][18] and post-grunge,[14] and dance rhythms influenced by reggae, ska, flamenco, and Tejano, among others.[19] Apart from No Doubt's instrumentation, the album uses horn sections on several songs.[17]

Many of the lyrics on Tragic Kingdom were written by lead vocalist Gwen Stefani, and were about her experiences in life. Those from No Doubt and The Beacon Street Collection were written mainly by Eric Stefani, who left the band after Tragic Kingdom was finished.[20] Therefore, the style of music changed from what the band had previously produced. Guitarist Tom Dumont explained the change in sound in an interview for Backstage Online:


The first single released from Tragic Kingdom was "Just a Girl", which details Gwen Stefani's exasperation with female stereotypes and her father's concerned reaction to her driving home late from her boyfriend's house. It peaked at number twenty-three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number ten on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.[21] The song also charted on the UK Singles Chart, where its original release peaked at number thirty-eight and its re-issue at number three.[22] The second single was "Spiderwebs", written about an uninterested woman who is trying to avoid the constant phone calls of a persistent man. It peaked at number five on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart,[21] at number eleven on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart,[21] and at number sixteen on the UK Singles Chart.[22]

The third single was "Don't Speak", a ballad about the breakup of Stefani and Kanal's relationship. It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay, and maintained that position for sixteen consecutive weeks, a record at the time, although it was broken in 1998 by the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" with eighteen weeks.[23] The song was not eligible to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 because no commercial single was released, which was a requirement at the time.[24] The song also peaked on Modern Rock Tracks at number two, the Adult Contemporary chart, where it peaked at number six, the Adult Top 40, where it hit number one and the Rhythmic Top 40, where it hit number nine.[21] The song also appeared on several international charts, reaching number one in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, number two in Austria and Germany, and number four in Finland and France.[22][25]

"Excuse Me Mr." and "Happy Now?" were released as the album's fourth and fifth singles, respectively. "Excuse Me Mr." reached number seventeen on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart[21] and number eleven in New Zealand,[26] but "Happy Now?" failed to chart anywhere.[21][27] "Sunday Morning" was released as the album's sixth single. It peaked at number thirty-five on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart,[21] number twenty-one in Australia, number forty-two in New Zealand, and number fifty-five in Sweden.[28] Composing the song began when Kanal was having a fight with Stefani, then his girlfriend, through the bathroom door of his parents' house in Yorba Linda, California. Stefani later changed the lyrics to discuss dealing with her breakup with Kanal.[29] Finally, "Hey You!" was released as the seventh and final single from Tragic Kingdom; it peaked at number fifty-one on the Dutch Single Top 100.[30] Despite being a Dutch-only single, a music video (directed by Sophie Muller) was made to promote the single.

Release and promotion[edit]

Tragic Kingdom was first released by Trauma/Interscope on October 10, 1995. The album did not appear on the Billboard 200 chart until the first week of January 1996.[31] To promote the album, Trauma launched a street campaign that targeted high school students and the skateboarding community. No Doubt performed on the Warped Tour, which was sponsored by several skateboarding companies, and at several skateboarding festivals. The album remained low on the Billboard 200 and did not enter the top hundred until February 1996, when it jumped twenty-seven positions to number eighty-nine. Palmer attributed the jump to a Channel One News program that Stefani hosted in January 1996, which was broadcast in twelve thousand classrooms, and the band's subsequent performance at a Blockbuster store in Fresno, California.[32]

In May 1996, the band worked with HMV, MuchMusic, and the Universal Music Group to put on a global in-store promotion. The band performed and answered questions in MuchMusic's studios in Toronto, Ontario. The session was broadcast live to HMV stores worldwide and on a webcast so that fans could watch and ask the band questions through MuchMusic's VJs. Sales of Tragic Kingdom doubled the week after the event. The event's sponsors lobbied Guinness World Records to create a category for the largest virtual in-store promotion to recognize the event.[33]

No Doubt embarked on the Tragic Kingdom Tour after the release of the album. It chose Project X, headed by Luc Lafortune and Michael Keeling, to design the stage. No Doubt suggested decorating the stage as a clearing in a forest. Project X created three anthropomorphic trees with glowing oranges. The show included clear and mylar confetti designed to look like rain. Lighting design was difficult because there were only four rehearsals, so the show was arranged to be flexible to allow for what Lafortune referred to as "a very kinetic performance".[34] The band expected to tour for two months, but the tour ended up lasting two and a half years.[35]

An early 1997 performance at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim was filmed[36] and was released as Live in the Tragic Kingdom on video cassette on November 11, 1997.[37] It was re-released on November 25, 2003 on DVD as part of the box set Boom Box,[38] which also contained The Singles 1992–2003, Everything in Time, and The Videos 1992–2003; and again on June 13, 2006 as a single DVD, containing bonus material of extra songs, a photo gallery, and an alternate version of "Don't Speak".[39]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[14]
Christgau's Consumer Guide C+[16]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[40]
Entertainment Weekly C+[18]
MusicHound Rock 3/5[41]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[42]

The album received mostly positive reviews from critics. David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine gave a mostly positive review, describing Tragic Kingdom as "ear candy with good beats, not just bludgeon-by-numbers guitars" and its music as "a spry, white-suburban take on ska and Blondieesque pop". Fricke however described "Don't Speak" as "irritating swill" with "high-pitched rippling" from Gwen Stefani.[15] In 2003, the album was ranked number 441 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[1] Entertainment Weekly magazine gave the album a C+ rating. Reviewer David Browne attributed the album's sales to Gwen Stefani's "leggy, bleached-blond calling card" and concluded that "sex still sells". Browne, however, described the music as "a hefty chunk of new-wave party bounce and Chili Peppers-style white-boy funk, with dashes of reggae, squealing hair-metal guitar, disco, ska-band horns" and the band as sounding like "savvy, lounge-bred pros". Individual songs were singled out and commented on: "Just a Girl" was described as "a chirpy, ska-tinged bopper", "Don't Speak" as "an old-fangled power ballad", "Sixteen" as a "song of solidarity with misunderstood teenage girls", and "Spiderwebs" and "End It on This" as "[Stefani] acknowledg[ing] obsessions with losers and tr[ying] to break free."[18]

Calling the album a marked improvement over "the diffuse, rambling songwriting of [No Doubt's] two previous CDs", Los Angeles Times critic Mike Boehm felt that on the album, "The band is bright, hard-hitting and kinetic, as sharp production captures the core, four-man instrumental team and adjunct horn section at their best".[43] In a favourable review for The Village Voice, critic Chuck Eddy felt that although "[the album] turns pretentious ... No Doubt resurrects the exuberance new-wave guys lost when '80s indie labels and college radio conned them into settling for slam-pit fits and wallflower wallpaper".[19] AllMusic called it "pure fun" and described the music as something "between '90s punk, third-wave ska, and pop sensibility" and a mix of "new wave melodicism, post-grunge rock, and West Coast sunshine", indicating the songs "Spiderwebs", "Just a Girl", and "Don't Speak" as "positively [ruling] the airwaves".[14] Yahoo! Music reviewer Bill Holdship called the album a "phenomenon" containing "hit after hit", and describing "Spiderwebs" as "a terrific opener".[44] Reviewer Robert Christgau gave the album a C+ rating, calling Stefani "hebephrenic" and the album "hyped up" and not "as songful as its fun-besotted partisans [claim]".[16] At the 1997 Grammy Awards, No Doubt were nominated for Best New Artist and Best Rock Album.[45]

Commercial performance[edit]

Tragic Kingdom eventually reached the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart in December 1996, and it remained there for eight weeks.[31] It was listed second on the 1997 year-end Billboard 200, behind the Spice Girls' Spice.[46] In February 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America certified the album diamond for shipping ten million copies.[47] By April 2004, the album had sold a total of sixteen million copies worldwide.[35] The commercial success of Tragic Kingdom prompted record labels to sign ska bands, and more independent labels released ska records and compilations. Save Ferris's guitarist and vocalist Brian Mashburn stated that No Doubt helped allow bands like his receive attention from the mainstream.[48] Tragic Kingdom topped the Canadian Albums Chart in 1996,[21] and it was certified diamond by the Canadian Recording Industry Association in August 1997.[49] In Europe, the album topped the albums chart in Belgium, Finland, and Norway; reached the top five in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom; and placed in the top twenty in France.[50]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Spiderwebs"   Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal 4:28
2. "Excuse Me Mr."   G. Stefani, Tom Dumont 3:04
3. "Just a Girl"   G. Stefani, Dumont 3:28
4. "Happy Now?"   G. Stefani, Dumont, Kanal 3:43
5. "Different People"   Eric Stefani, G. Stefani, Kanal 4:34
6. "Hey You!"   G. Stefani, Kanal 3:34
7. "The Climb"   E. Stefani 6:37
8. "Sixteen"   G. Stefani, Kanal 3:21
9. "Sunday Morning"   Kanal, G. Stefani, E. Stefani 4:33
10. "Don't Speak"   E. Stefani, G. Stefani 4:23
11. "You Can Do It"   G. Stefani, E. Stefani, Dumont, Kanal 4:13
12. "World Go 'Round"   Kanal, G. Stefani 4:09
13. "End It on This"   G. Stefani, Dumont, Kanal, E. Stefani 3:45
14. "Tragic Kingdom"   E. Stefani 5:31


Credits adapted from the liner notes of Tragic Kingdom.[51]

No Doubt

Additional personnel

  • Dan Arsenault – photography
  • Bill Bergman – saxophone (11, 12)
  • Ray Blair – engineering (5)
  • Gerard Boisse – saxophone (5, 7, 14)
  • Stephen Bradley – keyboards, trumpet
  • Aloke Dasgupta – sitar (6)
  • Tony Ferguson – Interscope A&R direction
  • Albhy Galuten – director of paradigm (5)
  • Melissa Hasin – cello (8, 10)
  • David J. Holman – mixing
  • Matt Hyde – engineering (1, 2, 13)
  • Phil Kaffel – engineering (3–10, 14)
  • Rob Kahane – Trauma A&R direction
  • George Landress – engineering (3, 6, 7)
  • Nick Lane – trombone (11, 12)
  • Les Lovitt – trumpet (11, 12)
  • Gabrial McNair – additional percussion, trombone
  • Patrick Miller – photography
  • Morbido / Bizarrio – creative director, design, digital imaging
  • Paul Palmer – mixing, Trauma A&R direction
  • Stephen Perkinssteel drums (1)
  • John Potoker – engineering (11–13)
  • Shelly Robertson – photography
  • Brent Smith – Interscope A&R assistance
  • Greg Smith – baritone saxophone (11, 12)
  • Robert Vosgien – mastering
  • Matthew Wilder – production (all tracks); additional keyboards (3, 6)



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[82] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[83] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[49] Diamond 1,000,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[84] Platinum 55,785[84]
France (SNEP)[85] 2× Gold 223,000[86]
Germany (BVMI)[87] Gold 250,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[88] 5× Platinum 75,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[89] Platinum 50,000*
Sweden (GLF)[90] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[91] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[92] Platinum 533,172[93]
United States (RIAA)[47] 10× Platinum 10,000,000^
Europe (IFPI)[94] 2× Platinum 2,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


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